Raise your hand if you've ever been mean or nasty to your mother when she totally didn't deserve it, just because you were stressed out about wedding planning. Okay, all of you who didn't raise your hands… think again. Half of you should be raising your hands. Now the big question.
Why do we do that?
"Wedding planning is stressful, this event carries so many hopes and dreams that it just HAS TO BE RIGHT! The stress needs an outlet and there is no safer place to let off steam than with the one person you feel most secure with – mom," explains Elizabeth Carroll, author and co-director of Marriage Boot Camp.
I've owned it before, and I'll own it again – I was a Bridezilla, and I was awful to my mom during my wedding planning. Part of it was that we both had very different opinions on the kind of wedding I should have, but once we made those compromises, I should have been nice. I should have been respectful. I shouldn't have yelled at her in the bridal shop.
Shocker! Right, I know. That's pretty horrible. But I was having a horrible dress-shopping experience. After we'd spent a zillion bucks at a top-end salon so that I would have a custom-made silk gown that would make my not perfect figure looks as good as it would ever look, the bridal associates we dealt with weren't very nice.
I remember when we went for my last fitting, it was about a 100 degrees out, and the elevators and the air conditioning were broken in the bridal shop. Really, they should have called in advance and rescheduled us. Instead, there I was, struggling into Spanx and a bra we referred to as the "iron maiden" as sweat dripped down my back. I felt anything but attractive once I was zipped into the heavy silk gown.
When we finally got out of there, I totally melted down on my mom, and not in a nice way. I'm still embarrassed and in the past 14 years since this happened, I've apologized many times. I think it bothers me more than it bothers my mom.
"The best way for mom to handle this is to stay calm, don't take the crazy personally, and speak comfort into the stress, 'you are under so much pressure right now, what do you need right now?'" Elizabeth says.
According to her professional recommendations, my mom handled it all just right. And she's never once reminded me what a monster I was during my wedding planning. In fact, she jumped in and saved my butt a number of times during my destination wedding weekend when was running out of time. She never shied away from helping on anything just because I would have totally deserved it if she had.
Now that I've spent the last 10 years of my life planning other couples' weddings, I realized that no matter how reprehensible, my behavior wasn't at all uncommon for a bride-to-be. In fact, most of the blowups I've seen took place during the wedding week, and frequently with an audience of family or wedding guests. At least I didn't do that.
To be fair, a few of the moms totally deserved to be smacked, but not publicly. I'm not one for public humiliation. I find it tasteless and inappropriate. Those brides should have grabbed mom's best friend and said "get her out of here before I explode."
Most of the time, Mothers of the Bride get yelled at for nothing they've done or said. Brides are just letting off steam because they're stressed out. Maybe they're mad the groom forgot half the stuff he needed in her room, and he's had to send somebody back to make her hunt for his socks, and his shoes, several times. I remember being irritated as all hell because one of my bridesmaids had bought what I considered hooker heels, when everybody had been asked to wear pink strappy sandals. Any number of seemingly unimportant things can set a bride's nerves on edge on her big day. She's already as jacked up mentally as is humanly possible – it doesn't take much to flip her switch if she's prone to strong reactions.
Why does this happen in such a predictable manner?
Dr. Jane Greer, a relationship expert and author, explains that a big part of it is how brides react to the impending emotional separation from their family of origin.
"One of the measures is saying 'I don't need you anymore. I can run my own life.' The second part is the power struggle becomes a 'don't tell me what to do, I know what's best for me now' situation," Jane says.
She says apologizing for mistreating your mother during the planning or the actual wedding needs to be a top priority. She says you need to make time to spend with your mom to show her you do care and respect her opinions, and that she remains very special to you regardless of how you may have behaved in the moment.
Look, the fabulous thing about the "unconditional love" most of our mothers feel for us is that they love us even when we act like brats. Sometimes they might not LIKE us very much, or approve of our choices, but they ultimately love us to the very core. If you apologize sincerely, with words and actions, it's likely mom will forgive you for being a horrible Bridezilla.
But maybe, just maybe… if you're engaged right now and planning a wedding, you might consider NOT being mean to your mother during your wedding planning. She'd probably think it was the best possible Mother's Day gift you could give her.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Sandy Malone Weddings!